Toronto Maple Leafs: William Nylander Singlehandedly Beats the Oilers

TORONTO,ON - JANUARY 20: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs tries to flip a pass in front against the Edmonton Oilers during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 20, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO,ON - JANUARY 20: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs tries to flip a pass in front against the Edmonton Oilers during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 20, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs won a hard-fought game on Friday night to break even on their two-game mini series vs the Oilers.

The second game was much more exciting, though often not in a good way for the Leafs who allowed more odd-man rushes in the first five minutes than they did in the entirety of Wednesday’s game.  The Leafs were unable to contain McDavid and were lucky Andersen had such a great game.

As far as scoring chances allowed, this was probably the Leafs worst game of the year – The Oilers were at 50% or better in shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, and expected goals.  It’s excusable for the Leafs who were without two-thirds of their top line.

Weirdly, despite Tavares scoring the winning goal and Marner picking up two points, the Leafs two stars were invisible for most of the night as they got absolutely beat-down by the McDavid line.  Hyman, Marner, Tavares, Brodie and Rielly were absolutely dusted by Mcdavid who had a 63% puck possession rating on the night while each Leafs player tasked with containing him topped out at 39%.

The Willy and Freddie Show

Impressively, over two games the Leafs allowed just one real 5v5 goal (the other was a fluke off of a skate).  When you consider that the one goal they did get was a perfect, unstoppable tip-in, you have to hand it to Andersen who recovered from a couple bad games to open the season to more or less outright stealing two points last night.

The only other Leafs worth talking about on Friday were Justin Holl, William Nylander, Alex Kerfoot and Jimmy Vesey.  The Leafs makeshift second line did to the Draisaitl line what Connor and Co. did to the Marner line: destroy and embarrass it.

In almost ten minutes of ice-time together, this line had 16 shot-attempts for, and 2 against for a nearly 90% puck possession rating. They had an expected-goals rating of 85% and did not allow a single shot against.

This was by-far Alex Kerfoot’s best game in a Leafs uniform, and Nylander was ridiculous.  Sure, he was dusted by a full-speed tank named Draisaitl in a clip shown forty times on the broadcast, and I’m not sure what he was doing when the Oilers scored short-handed, but other than that it was a spectacular game from one of the NHL’s best players.

In 14 minutes of 5v5 ice-time, Nylander had a 73% Corsi and the Leafs had 8 scoring chances to the Oilers zero. (All stats naturalstattrick.com).

To sum up these two games, you have to say that the Leafs did well.  Despite not having their best lineup or game for either match, they came away with a split, and could easily (phantom penalty call notwithstanding) have won both.  They could also easily have lost both (as is the nature of the game) but what I like to see is that they’re giving themselves  a chance to win even when they aren’t at their best.

Next. Leafs Top 10 Prospects. dark

Matthews still has just one 5v5 goal, and Andersen is still under a .900 save percentage, and despite this, the Leafs are 4-2.  That bodes extremely well for their future record.